The Joseph Biden administration insists that its attitude toward immigration is more “humane” than that of Donald Trump’s before it. But the fact is Biden is trying to shut the U.S. southern border as increasing numbers of migrant workers from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, and especially from Mexico again, are trying to get into the country.
“Biden, please let us in,” is the slogan on white T-shirts worn by many camped out in the Mexican border city of Tijuana, some of whom have been there for weeks.
Unlike migrant surges in 2019 and 2014, which were comprised of families from Central America and unaccompanied minors, this one is largely individual adults, mainly men from Mexico. Single adults were 82% of those apprehended by U.S. border forces so far this year.
They’re driven by the need for jobs in the face of pandemic lockdowns, as well as economic and social crises at home. While hiring is increasing in the U.S., 2.4 million workers lost their jobs last year in Mexico.
The Biden administration has kept in place former President Trump’s COVID-19-motivated order to immediately expel individuals crossing the border from Mexico, depriving them of a court hearing and a chance to apply for asylum. Some 20,000 Border Patrol cops, the vast majority deployed along the U.S. southwest border, are implementing this policy.
Many of the individuals expelled back to Mexico wait there and try again. The percentage of migrants stopped at the border who previously had been caught has grown to nearly 40% in the past six months.
Mexican workers face an economic crisis deeper than in the U.S., where jobs are on the upswing, spurred by increased COVID-19 vaccinations. Over a third of the U.S. population has gotten a shot. In Mexico only 5% has.
The White House, however, did reverse the Trump administration’s policy of turning away unaccompanied children at the border. As of March 25 over 18,000 children have been taken into custody by federal authorities. Still, this is a smaller number than the adults who’ve been expelled or barred from the U.S.
The children are detained in overcrowded facilities, which the Biden administration had refused to allow journalists to visit. One of these, a 160,000-square-foot tent area in Donna, Texas, houses 1,000 children. “Lawyers who inspect immigrant detention facilities,” said the Dallas Morning News March 15, “interviewed children who reported being held in packed conditions in the tent, with some sleeping on the floor and others unable to shower for five days.”
The Biden administration has been setting up additional detention centers. In Texas this includes in Carrizo Springs, in the oil fields near Odessa, the Dallas Convention Center, and military bases in San Antonio and El Paso. The administration has called on other government agencies to send volunteers to help.
While expelling individuals, mainly men, the Biden administration has also sought to bar families, predominantly from Central America. “There is no change in policy: the border remains closed,” the Department of Homeland Security says.
But because of opposition from the Mexican government, some are being allowed to stay in the U.S. temporarily for hearings on asylum pleas.
Harris assigned to ‘deal’ with crisis
The White House assigned Vice President Kamala Harris to deal with this crisis, saying she will oversee administration plans to reduce migration from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Biden is requesting Congress allocate $4 billion to make the deals.
But this crisis can’t be resolved by throwing money at capitalist regimes there. Conditions facing working people in Central America are rooted in the workings of the U.S. capitalist rulers’ drive for profits, which pushes down wages and working conditions in the factories and fields across the region.
The capitalist class in the U.S. is not interested in permanently shutting its borders. Many bosses are dependent on drawing immigrant workers into the workforce to superexploit them, driving down the wages of all workers and weakening unions. The bosses’ government — whether Democrat or Republican — manages the flow of immigrant labor, both legal and not, depending on the ups and downs of production.
Over the past six years the number of H-2A “guest” visas for farmworkers has been rising. It remained below 100,000 until 2014, doubled to over 200,000 in 2017, and has continued to increase. These workers, who are in the U.S. an average of six months, guarantee a supply of cheap labor for big capitalist farmers.
“The Socialist Workers Party campaign fights for amnesty for all 11 million undocumented immigrants who live and work in the U.S., and against deportations,” said Gerardo Sánchez, Socialist Workers Party candidate for Dallas City Council. “This is central to uniting the working class, to strengthening our unions and organizing to fight together against the attacks of the bosses and their government.”